The Chicago Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum Thursday night in hopes of starting 2014 where they left before the break: on top.
The Anaheim Ducks are tied with the Hawks for first place in the league with 63 points and have been jockeying for the top spot over the last few weeks. But the outstanding play of Patricks Kane and Sharp continues to stun Chicago’s opponents.
Patrick Kane places third in the NHL with 23 goals in 42 games and has recorded point-scoring streaks of 12 and 14 games this season. Aside from racking up numbers on the scoresheet, his passing and vision is as good as its ever been in Kane’s seven seasons with Chicago.
Patrick Sharp recorded a Hat Trick on Dec. 30 against Colorado and out-hustles entire lines from opponents this season. His ability to force the puck-carrier to make a bad play or give the puck up entirely is unmatched in the NHL and he is sure to have a record-setting season if he continues to play at this level. The return of Corey Crawford can help him do just that.
Crawford returns to the lineup and is set to start Thursday night against the Islanders after missing 10 games with a lower-body injury. His replacement, Antti Raanta, will back him up after playing very well in Crawford’s absence.
The Islanders enter Thursday’s game at the Coliseum on back-to-back, come-from-behind wins against Minnesota and Boston to finish 2013. Despite their trend of of blowing late-game leads, the Islanders showed resiliency and grit on the strength of John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, who both lead the team with 44 and 40 points, respectively.
Tavares registered 4 points (2G,2A) in Tuesday’s 5-3 victory over boston and he ranks 4th in the league in points. His five-year NHL career is providing the Islanders with the leadership it needs to become a postseason contender this year. His second in command, Okposo, currently boasts a seven-game point streak with 5 goals and 3 assists. Still, the Islanders cannot find a way to use their strengths to lift its struggling Penalty Kill.
New York’s PK is dead-last in the NHL, stopping just 73 percent of opponent Power Plays this season. New York did, however, stop all four of Chicago’s Power Play attempts in their first meeting of the season last October. But Chicago has been able to patch a few holes in its PP woes over a recent stretch and now sits at 3rd in PP conversions in the league, first place when on the road.
The Islanders and the Blackhawks square off at 6 p.m. CT.